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Appealing star of CW's Jane the Virgin comes off as seasoned vet


Testing positive’s not a positive in Jane the Virgin. CW photo

Premiering: Monday, Oct. 13th at 8 p.m. (central) on The CW
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Justin Baldoni, Andrea Navedo, Brett Dier, Yael Grobglas, Ivonne Coll, Jaime Camil
Produced by: Jennie Snyder, Ben Silverman, Gary Pearl, Jorge Granier, Brad Silberling

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A luminous young star can work wonders for any premise. Which Gina Rodriguez does as the title character in The CW’s Jane the Virgin.

Still “saving herself” at age 23 after an unyielding grandma drilled virginity into her, Jane Villanueva finds herself expecting after being accidentally artificially inseminated with sperm from a cancer-surviving Miami hotel owner with looks that could kill. Further complications quickly pile up in this loose adaptation of the telenovela Juana la Virgen.

Jane’s own fondness for telenovelas and grilled cheese sandwiches has been with her since a pre-teen indoctrination by devout Grandma Alba (Ivonne Coll), whose own daughter Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) gave birth to Jane after being impregnated at age 16. Alba doesn’t want a rerun. So she’s used a flower as a symbol of virginity while instructing her granddaughter in the fine art of abstaining until marriage. Crumple a flower and it can never be what it once was, Jane is taught. Lesson implanted.

But Jane’s life becomes “the stuff of telenovelas,” in the words of a Ricardo Montalban-sounding narrator, after a pap smear goes awry courtesy of a pre-occupied doctor who’s just caught her lover in bed with another. Hey, it happens -- or at least it does here. Hunky hotel owner Rafael (Justin Baldoni) had no idea that his duplicitous wife, Petra (Yael Grobglas), intended to artificially impregnate herself as a means of keeping their lousy marriage intact long enough for her to collect a big financial settlement.

Jane, who works at the hotel while studying to become a teacher, has been dating an Anglo detective named Michael (Brett Dier). He longs to slide into home plate with her but has agreed to wait until they’re married. So it’s a bit of a shocker to learn that she’s suddenly pregnant with another man’s child.

Jane the Virgin tries to walk a tightrope between comedy and poignancy. It sometimes teeters, but Rodriguez is perfectly calibrated throughout. She’s arguably the most engaging newcomer of the fall season, whether pouring wine as a mermaid at the hotel or pouring herself out to grandma while trying to explain how “a sample of a man” got inside of her.

The oft-ridiculed CW network has just two series this fall. But both The Flash and Jane the Virgin turn out to be potentially better bargains than the majority of first-year series being rolled out by the Big Four broadcast networks. Rodriguez lights up every scene she’s in, never more so than in the closing one for Monday’s premiere.

“And then everything changed,” the narrator adds. It seems worth sticking around to see how.


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